The Potluck

Minnesota Asian and Pacific Caucus announces anti-hate legislation, advocates for gun control

By: - January 23, 2023 3:16 pm

Asian and Pacific Caucus chair Rep. Ethan Cha (right) and caucus vice chair Sen. Susan Pha at a Capitol press conference on Monday, Jan. 23. Photo by Michelle Griffith / Minnesota Reformer.

The Minnesota Asian and Pacific Caucus said Monday that a top priority at the Legislature this year is to address hate and bias incidents against people of color, particularly Asian Americans.

The caucus began its Monday press conference with a moment of silence for the victims affected by a mass shooting in California Saturday that killed at least 11 people during a Lunar New Year celebration. (The shooter’s motive in the killing is unclear.)

Members of the caucus offered hopeful pledges to pass legislation that will deter hate crimes against Asian Americans. The lawmakers — all Democrats — also said it’s time for the Legislature to finally pass gun control bills.

“Our community, like other communities of color, has never been a stranger to gun violence,” said. Rep. Liz Lee, DFL-St. Paul, a member of the 10-person Asian and Pacific Caucus. “It’s definitely something that our caucus hopes to address going forward, even though we shouldn’t have to.”

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, about 365,100 Minnesotans identified as Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Hate crimes against Asian Americans and anti-Asian rhetoric have increased dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, after President Donald Trump and other elected Republicans and right-wing media figures blamed China for the illness.

The anti-hate crime legislation would expand current legislation against crimes motivated by bias to include bias against a person’s perceived ethnicity, gender expression, gender identity or association or perceived involvement with a protected group. The bill also increases the statutory maximum sentence for hate crimes and would require police officers to be trained to recognize crimes motivated by bias.

The lawmakers also said they want to increase funding for victims of hate crime. The bill also expands the situations in which police officers need to report a crime as a hate crime.

In addition to hate crime legislation, the Asian and Pacific Caucus said its top priorities include increased school funding for programs for students learning English; mandatory ethnic studies curricula for all Minnesota schools; increased support for AAPI veterans and additional grants for culturally specific nonprofits in the state.

Representation for Asian Americans has increased in the Minnesota Legislature in recent years, and the Minnesota Asian and Pacific Caucus is one of the largest state legislature Asian American caucuses in the U.S.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.

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